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Poster: Purple Gel Date: May 9, 2007 3:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: 12-31-81

I just listened to this whole show on a long drive from Colorado to Salt Lake today and it reminded me why I love this show so much.

This show had absolutely everything, starting off with the Baez set. Ok, it was certainly not the Dead at their best, but it was unique. I saw the 2 Saenger shows the year before, so I had seen the Dead do an accoustic set, but this was different, and no matter your opinion of Baez, it was something new, and even though it fell somewhat flat, I appreciated seeing something so unique. Having seen so many shows, I learned to savor it anytime the boys tried something different, even if it didn't quite work. Having said that, I do love the version of Banks of the Ohio, with Jerry serving up harmonies. I also enjoyed the "singalong" atmosphere of Bobby McGee. Also Joan did a passable solo version of the Boxer and she and Mickey performed an interesting tune she called "Happy New Year In Arabic". The latter 2 songs do not appear on the copy at the archives, but there are copies out there. The Joan set was more like a warm-up band than anything else, and it really got the crowd excited for the main event.

Again this show had everything, a killer songlist, some of the tightest playing I ever saw the boys do for a whole night, as well as some special treats.

1) The songlist: despite the fact that they were still pushing the Go To Heaven tunes and playing some of those songs pretty much every night, Shakedown Street,( 8/79) which kicked off the show, is the newest song here!! (Yes I know that CC Rider debuted in 12-79, but that is just another Blues song like the Dead had been doing throughout.) The two other "newest" songs here are Aiko and Terrapin (both '77). Other than those, there isn't a tune that debuted later than '74 (Roses) with all the others dating back to '71 and earlier. To me Set 1 [except for Shakedown} through pre-drums had a feel of a '77 show. Post Drums was the closest I ever got to what a '71-'72 show might have been like.

2) The playing: Starting with the aforementioned Shakedown, the band just takes off and rips through the whole show. The first set just didn't let up. Shakedown is a top 10 version in just about anyone's book, the Big Boss Man is my favorite of the post Pig era, CR&S is one of those classic eartly 80's slower versions, but played in the middle of the set. The Roses is sweet and everything else is played perfectly, and that was just the begining!

Before the countdown, Ken Kesey gave me us a little taste of what the acid tests might have been like with his Gong Bong.

Set 2 took us even higher. The pre-drums was ecstatic, with a great Aiko followed by a Playin/Terrapin sandwich. the Playin is long and winding, and it sounds to me as if the drummers were ready to go into their bit at the end, but Jerry starts Terrapin.

Post Drums takes you even higher, with 16 minutes of blazing guitar space into a short but powerful Other One, followed by a vintage NFA> GDTRFB> Dew that just floored me. To me that second set is as tight as any I witnessed and probably has the best songlist of the era.

the 3rd (some say 4th) set was just as magical. It had been almost 3 yrs since DS had been played and of course Brent had never performed it. The whole arena erupted with glee at the opening notes. The Dark Star was somewhat short, about 15 minutes, but it was very focused, and perfectly played, I haven't been able to hear a missed note. I have a soft spot in my heart for this version. before this I saw it performed at the closing of Winterland and at Nassau Colliseum in '79, and after I saw the Greek and a couple in 89-90, but this has remained my favorite of the ones I saw. The Bertha>Good Love to end the show was just the Dead at their rockin best. Even the Baby Blue encore with Joan wailing in the back, couldn't dampen the night.

3) Special Treats: The Gong Bong and Dark Star.

As I stated earlier, one of the things that made this show so special was that the boys just reached back and avoided throwing any of the new tunes into the mix and just played some "Good Ole Grateful Dead". I don't know if it was the night, the fact that Jerry got married that evening, or just the stars lining up (Probably a combination of all 3) but this is a special show that brought some of that old timey voodoo back to those who were there.

This post was modified by Purple Gel on 2007-05-09 22:50:19

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Poster: mid-maine Date: May 9, 2007 6:23pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 12-31-81

funny, i'd been thinking about posting a review of this show the other day, then thought, ah come on, everyone's already heard everything about it!

i appreciate purple gel's perspective (not to mention my being envious of his touring career). this show, though i didn't get to see the boyz until '82, has always been one of my favorites. i got my first tapes of it in '86 or '87. it has been printed on my memory ever since.

what i wanted to post about was the playin'->terrapin->playin'. imho, this is the most unique playin' there is. somehow, jerry picks up this theme that is unlike anything i've ever heard him play before or since. ok, i've not listened to EVERY dead show out there, but i've scanned many. i'm deeply familiar with each phase of their career, and this still stands out as a unique highlight.

shortly after the noodly playin' lick that leads into its jam, jerry picks up on this phrase that sounds like some egyptian-yet-jazz quote. he digs it deeply and this leads the jam into a completely unique zone. it begins on the low end of his fret board, and only later does he bring it up to the higher notes, repeating it as a coda here and there. in a few places, just when you think the jam is about to fall apart, jerry plucks out this refrain, or the suggestion of it, and the jam takes right back off.

the result is the dreamiest playin' ever. yes, there are those '74 monster meltdowns -- oakland, jersey city, seattle to name a few -- but they all share similar themes. in fact, mike dolgushkin refers to those '74 melt downs as "tigers," and i know exactly what he means. this 12-31-81 jam is far more sinuous, sonorous and snake charming unique. beyond being a real keeper, it warrants description from someone who has better mastery of the english language than i do.

toward the end, right before the playin' jam drops into terrapin, brent makes a nice little dark star nod (@11mins). perfect. then the terrapin is stellar, the storyteller jam wending its way around the dreamier corners of consciousness. after the final terrapin crescendo, the boyz click right back into the playin' jam. it is a breathtaking transition. they jump right back into the eroding astral fray.

once the final verse is sung, clearly and with gusto from bob and brent, jerry trills an impressive finish. this playin' is closed as only first set playin's of '73 and '74 close. there is no other equal in the 80s. jerry fully explores the country twang and gushes all the right notes. ok, there's an ooooch-ouch sour note once or twice, but who cares. this is hot stuff. if you're not careful, you might even miss it.

recommendation for playin'->terrapin->playin'?

play loudly in dimly lit environment. it will embrace every corner of the room.

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Poster: Purple Gel Date: May 9, 2007 7:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 12-31-81

Hey Mid-Maine

I couldn't agree with you more, this is one of the most unique and awesome Playin's out there. I've listened to it a thousand times and never noticed the little Brent DS tease until you mentioned it. Just goes to show you don't ever know, there are always little things to discover in Dead jams, even when you think you know it by heart!!! I love discovering little details like that, thanks for pointing it out.

I was wondering if you noticed Bobby's tease? There's a Bobby Dark Star tease at the very end of Playin. It's right at 14:23 about 4 seconds before the opening chords of Terrrapin, Bobby teases the intro to DS, a little hint of things to come perhaps. :)-

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Poster: mid-maine Date: May 10, 2007 10:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 12-31-81

yeah. gel, i call those little surprises the layers within layers. it's how i can listen to the uncle john's -----> morning dew segment of 10-12-84 again and again. there's always a new texture or surprise in the fabric.

as far as the bob dark star quote, i know that little phrase of which you speak. i always sensed he was referencing brent's cue. this little nudges seemed aimed at jerry. it made me wonder about their off-stage huddles. had someone suggested they dust it off that night? was it a wedding gift for someone? or, were bob and brent simply seeing the possibility in the air that night?

mickey once said that they'd huddle to determine the tone and tenor of drumz and space segments -- maybe that monster march '86 phili space->morning dew was in reference to lybian conflict and tensions????

anywho, was dark star in the works? were bob and brent looking for the opening? no matter how it got off the ground, they were flying that new year's.

gel, you got to witness a serious gem!

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Poster: johnnyonthespot Date: May 9, 2007 4:15pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 12-31-81

Good pick Gel. I never peiced it out like that on era's, cool. I love that Shakedown too,one of my favorite versions. You can hear all the cool shit Bobby's doing.

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Poster: billydlions Date: May 9, 2007 4:15pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 12-31-81

I've had this show for a while but have only listened to it a few times. Unfortunately that's the by product of downloading so many shows; I find that I rush through listening to shows so that I can get to the next batch. I think 1981 is their best year (followed closely by 1980 and 1982 which tie for second) and this is a fitting way to end the year. By the way, I much prefer the more focused Dark Stars. My favorite has always been 7-13-84.